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Rafael Silva Coutinho

Nationality: Brazilian

At 21 years of age, Rafael Silva Coutinho is one of the youngest of the 125 students helping out at the LHCb. Rafael has taken a 3-month break from his studies in Rio de Janeiro, where he's an undergraduate student, to work on the experiment’s high-tech VErtex LOcator (VELO).

Rafael Countinho“At the moment we’re checking that the 42 detector modules of the VELO are working properly,” explains Rafael. “We also have to test all the cables and electronic boards - our results so far have been very good.”

This hands-on approach to physics is a new experience for Rafael. “Actually I’ve not done much experimental work before,” he says. “In Brazil I study theory; I work on the decay of b meson particles and simulate possible channels for decay.”

Apart from the weather, the main difference between being at CERN and his life back in Rio is the working culture, says Rafael. “At home I study until maybe five o’clock, but here I arrive at eight or nine in the morning and I'm still here at nine at night." "It’s really impressive,” he adds, “people here don’t have weekends and they work until late night – they really love their work!”

Rafael’s three-month stint at CERN comes to an end in April, but he's already thinking of when he’ll be able to return. “I have to go back to Brazil to complete my studies, but maybe I can come back at some point next year,” he says.

Rafael’s long-term goal is to do a PhD in theoretical physics. “I’ve always wanted to be a researcher,” he says. “It’s probably because of my parents. My father is a marine biologist and I was always with him, helping him with his work, so I've always had this feeling that scientific research is for me.”